From Union Rags to riches and queuing for some ‘cue, it was a memorable weekend in NYC.
Belmont Without The Breeze
With 34 years having passed since the last Triple Crown winner, the public was anxious for what seemed a near certain victory. And then tendonitis resulted in a scratch of I’ll Have Another the day before the Belmont Stakes. Fans were disappointed (especially those who paid a premium for seats). A broken leg would have been tragic, but putting a horse down in front of hundreds of thousands of fans would have done more harm for a sport that has been getting all too much negative attention lately after the death of 3 horses during the filming of HBO’s Luck. (Such a beautifully shot and compelling drama.)
Belmont is quite different from the Derby or Preakness. When it’s not a Triple Crown, there seems to be little interest. That should change. In fact, it’s an inexpensive way to have a fun day out of the city. And a lot cheaper than a baseball game. When it’s not Stakes Day, GA tickets are only $3, with a $1 discount if you purchase a package through the LIRR (a 35-40 minute ride). It was $10 for tickets on Stakes Day (with a small service charge for advance purchase on Ticketmaster). Once there, you can bring in your own food and water, including coolers. On Stakes Day 2012, no alcohol could be brought in, but plenty was available for purchase. (Check the website for the latest info, as well as for other ticket and food options.)
While we thought it’d be less crowded without the Triple Crown possibility, attendance was still high (likely because of the advance ticket purchases). Like every other major event these days, cell phone service was erratic. Meeting up with people was next to impossible. Texting took forever, but the old-fashioned call worked OK at times. People didn’t seem to be too bothered by it though. Guess the outdoor picnic and gambling environment put everyone at ease.
Betting at Belmont is actually easy and cheap. Which makes it even more fun. Or maybe it was the guy in the giant horse mask or the crazy woman wearing the giant white ballgown and a Miss Kentucky Derby sash.
Unfortunately, sampling the Belmont Breeze or whatever Woodford Reserve drink it was supposed to be proved difficult. The one stand ran out of signature cups, and everyone was still waiting in a long line hoping more would arrive. This was poor marketing and profitmaking on the Belmont’s part. Next year maybe they can have trays of them or several stands or even non-signature cups. Too bad I’m not running things.
But the horse that ran the fastest, Union Rags, made a thrilling break at the end for a photo finish victory. What a day at the races! Next stop Saratoga….
Smokin’ In The City
Belmont didn’t stop me from attending the 10th Annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party held on June 9-10 in Madison Square Park. This free event draws pitmasters from all over. Plates are $8, or there is a more expensive FastPass option (speeds you through lines and access to other special food options). The popularity of this party has increased no doubt in part to the recent focus on BBQ on food and travel channels. When we heard Myron Mixon — the winningest man in BBQ — would be participating, there was no way we’d miss it.
But standing in the long lines in the bright sun with no breeze, made it almost unbearable. And no way that the brisket from Jack’s Old South would be worth the wait. But we did get to sample a rib meant for the VIP people while waiting in line. That stole the show from the brisket. Had not expected it to be pulled instead of sliced.
Salt Lick, from Austin, definitely had the better brisket and a great sausage. There were also tons of pulled pork, whole hog and various types of ribs available. If you could get over the crowds of people standing in line sweating while gnawing on a rib in your ear, it was a fun time. There was even music and a beer garden with craft brews.
What amazed me the most was the number of people standing in line for Shake Shack or eating gross sandwiches from Subway. You may be a billionaire eating McDonald’s in Rome, but no amount of money can buy a sense of adventure.